August timetables finalised following consultation

09 Jul 2018

Stagecoach North Scotland today confirmed proposals for the Caithness and Sutherland bus network which will take effect from Monday 20th August 2018.

Following a public event held in April and further consultation events held across the region in June the local bus operator has today confirmed that changes to the bus network in Caithness and Sutherland have been finalised and submitted to the Traffic Commissioner for approval.

The timetables from Monday 20th August include revisions to the service between Thurso and Inverness as well as revised networks in both Thurso and Wick based on feedback provided from those living in both towns. Thurso town service has been revised to improve connections to Lidl and in Wick connections to Tesco, Wick Retail Park, Martha Terrace Medical Practice and Wick Community Campus have also been improved.

From 20th August there will be up to 4 journeys a day from Thurso to Inverness as service X98 will extend to Caithness providing additional connections to Inverness. Two journeys from Thurso to Inverness will operate as service X98 and two journeys will operate as X99. The X99 journey departing Thurso at 0620 (Monday - Friday) will extend to Raigmore Hospital and Inverness Shopping Park, with journeys returning to Caithness from Raigmore Hospital at 1355 and 1705. Additionally, two journeys in each direction on Saturdays will extend to the hospital and shopping park. This revision is based on customer feedback and will provide a direct connection to two key destinations in Inverness from the north. Connections to Raigmore Hospital will allow customers to attend outpatient appointments. The revised timetable for the 0620 journey from Thurso will also provide better connections to Scottish Citylink and Megabus services from Inverness Bus Station.

Service 82 will be revised to include Wick Community Campus in the route allowing easy access to the primary school, high school and community facilities. A late night Saturday service on service 82 has also been introduced in response to customer feedback for those looking to enjoy an evening out in Wick or Thurso. The new timetable for service 82 will incorporate suggestions from staff members at the Wick Community Campus to better suit shift times, following feedback provided during the consultation period.

Following its original proposals, Stagecoach has reviewed the feedback and carried out further analysis of the new overall network and has confirmed that it will maintain a connection from Gills Bay allowing customers a direct connection to Wick and to connect at John O Groats for the bus to Thurso.

The new timetable will maintain bus connections to key sailings from Pentland Ferries’ Gills Bay terminal Monday - Friday. Service 77 will connect with the 0845 and 1800 ferry arrivals, with an onward connection to Inverness available at Wick at 0953. Similarly, northbound journeys on service 77 will connect with sailings from Gills Bay at 0930 and 1845. Coordination of services in Caithness and Orkney will allow customers to depart Kirkwall at 0700, arriving in Inverness at 1250, as well as departing Inverness at 1420, arriving in Kirkwall at 2031.

The company has recognised the feedback provided by the community during the consultation process with regards to connecting with ferry services at Gills Bay. The revised proposals represent a significant investment by Stagecoach, and work will continue to promote these links to encourage a sustainable level of demand. A review will take place 12 months after the start of the new timetable in order to establish the long term future of the bus service to Gills Bay.

In addition to the feedback shaping the timetables the company will also be investigating available options to introduce smaller vehicles to the fleet better suited to some parts of the North Scotland network. 

Daniel Laird, Commercial Director, Stagecoach North Scotland said: “We are pleased to confirm our service changes in the Caithness and Sutherland areas following an extended period of consultation with our customers and stakeholders. We held a number of public meetings and drop-in sessions across the region to make sure our proposals went as far as possible to meeting the needs of the community. 

"The response to our proposals for an enhanced service from Caithness and Sutherland to Inverness has been very positive, and we hope that new connections to Raigmore Hospital and Inverness Shopping Park will be popular.

"We had productive discussions with customers and stakeholders regarding the future of service 77. As this service is operated on a fully commercial basis, we have committed to a 12 month trial of the new timetable which will maintain connections with the key ferry journeys and we look forward to working with Pentland Ferries to develop the sustainability of this bus connection. 

Our final timetables are truly shaped by the suggestions of the local communities and we hope that from 20th August we will be welcoming more people on board our buses in Caithness and Sutherland as a result.”

The revised timetables are now going through the official registration process and are expected to be released to the public on Monday 30th July.